ua en ru

Russia changes missile strikes on Ukraine tactics in anticipation of F-16s arrival

Russia changes missile strikes on Ukraine tactics in anticipation of F-16s arrival Photo: Russia's missile attack changed targets before the F-16 arrived (Getty Images)
Author: Liliana Oleniak

Russia has begun to strike Ukrainian airfields in recent weeks, fearing the arrival of F-16 fighter jets, according to the UK Ministry of Defense.

Throughout June 2024, the Russian air force continued to put pressure on the front line in Ukraine with tactical aircraft, while kamikaze drones continued to strike deeper infrastructure and military installations.

However, between June 12 and June 18, Russian long-range aircraft shifted the focus of their cruise missile attacks to Ukrainian air bases, almost certainly due to the success of Ukrainian air defense, but also likely reflecting Russian concerns about the future use of F-16s.

Ukraine's attacks

According to the UK Ministry of Defense, a series of coordinated Ukrainian attacks on targets in Crimea have destroyed critical elements of Russia's S-300 and S-400 surface-to-air missile systems. These successes underscore Russia's attempt to protect its assets in Crimea, despite the significant economic costs of air defense.

"While it is likely that Russia can replace systems quickly, continued attrition will likely force Russia to draw on equipment from other areas, as it has done previously, if it wishes to maintain its density of Air Defense coverage. Alternatively, Russia may be forced to accept a reduction in capability, placing its forces on Crimea at increased risk," the report says.

Ukraine's continued successful attacks on Russian airfields such as Mozdok, Akhtubinsk, and most recently Morozovsk have likely forced Russia to continue its policy of dispersing its airbases further from the front line.

"This will almost certainly result in increased airframe and aircrew fatigue as sortie times increase. It is possible that the accidental loss of a Su-34 FULLBACK fighter bomber in the North Ossetia region of southern Russia on 12 June was linked to this," the UK Ministry of Defense says.

The first F-16s will arrive in Ukraine this summer. According to The Guardian, the fighters will protect Kharkiv from Russian strikes, as Russia has been making extensive use of guided aerial bombs, launching bombs from aircraft that remain in Russian airspace.